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Asus Eee-reader to open like a book

More details are surfacing about Asus' upcoming Eee-reader expected out by the end of the year. Most notable are the low price and hinged spine.

This image, which appears to be a conceptual drawing, shows an Asus e-reader with a backbone. Times Online

We're getting more details about that upcoming Asus Eee-book reader we told you about last month.

The company is looking at two versions: budget and premium, a spokesman for Asus in the U.K. told the Times of London.

But most intriguing is that at least one version of the reader, the higher-end one, would have a hinged spine, opening like a traditional book and closing into tablet form. This design would let users view the text of their book on one screen (turning its pages using the touch screen), while browsing a Web page on the other.

One screen could also act as a virtual keypad, according to the Times report, which would move the device into laptop territory.

The Asus e-reader would have a full color screen, and it may also feature speakers, a Webcam, and a mic for Skype, enabling cheap phone calls over the Internet, the Times reports.

As for price, we don't have hard numbers for you yet, but Asus is known for low-cost products like the ultraportable Eee PC, and speculation has the budget e-reader going for around $163 (Sony's Reader Pocket Edition, in comparison, runs from $200 to $300; Amazon's Kindle 2 also goes for around $300).

Expect to meet the Eee-readers by the end of the year if all goes according to plan.